On Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Bangladesh (Part 2)

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On Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Bangladesh (Part 2)

Amzad Hossain, Perth Western Australia

Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Subsequent to our previous version of discourse on the SDG issues as published in the NFB – News from Bangladesh (http://newsfrombangladesh.net/new/editorial/50865-on-achieving-sustainable-development-goals-sdgs-in-bangladesh-part-1) dated June 5, 2017, this version focuses on few primary research questions (PQRs) in relation to the Sustainable Development Goal 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

For the Goal-1, the UN also provide 7 target areas. The first 5 indicate what to achieve in order to address poverty, and the last 2 suggests as to how to address it.

1.1 by 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day

1.2 by 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions

1.3 implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable

1.4 by 2030 ensure that all men and women, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership, and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology, and financial services including microfinance

1.5 by 2030 build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations, and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters

1.a. ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular LDCs, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions

1.b create sound policy frameworks, at national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies to support accelerated investments in poverty eradication actions.

This discourse reveals the natural and man-made causes of  ‘poverty’ in its various forms of persistence as indicated by the UN. Nature can cause poverty to many people through various phenomena such as untimely droughts and floods, cyclones, earth quacks, epidemics etc. The natural causes are manifest through natural phenomena for refreshing nature’s own sustainability. This is believed to happen when people transgress nature beyond its limit to growth in the name of development. It is Scriptural that nature often retaliates through the above phenomena not only to replenish itself, but also to punish people:

“Lo! We have created everything by measure” (Quran 54:49). Thus, transgression beyond the ecological carrying or regenerative capacity of the physical environment is unforgiving and revengeful so people can retreat. Revelation has it that “Mischief has appeared on the land and sea, because of (the need) that the hands of man have earned, that (Allah) may give them a taste of some of their deeds: in order that they may turn back (from evil)” (Quran 30:41).

As nature is inherently resilient, the phenomena appear only to restore or renew degrading sustainability. They are intrinsically sustainable - all beings and things in nature have been experiencing them since long. But some of the man-made disasters including landslide are due to various anti-sustainability acts such as hill cutting and obstructing water bodies are highly destructive to nature, environment and society. They are irreversible, but can be prevented through implementing sustainable settlement principles of the SDGs.

Man-made poverty is the result of human ignorance of sustainability, ignorance of right and wrong, good and bad, moral or immoral, just or unjust. For example, some educated well-off people’s “greed” for “eating excessive meat (and fish)”[1] is a result of their utter ignorance. This ignorance is not only increasingly causing overwhelming poverty to most humanity, but also ruining ecological sustainability worldwide. The “Green Revolution” driven agriculture;[2] and “excessive production of plastic commodities”[3] are also rapidly ruining sustainability. In this discourse we limit our focus only on the impact of excessive meat consumption in general and poverty alleviation perspectives in Bangladesh through the SDGs, in particular.

Primary Research Questions with Remarks

1.       What is poverty?

Poverty is a debilitating entity that generates a sense of helplessness, passivity, and despair (Tashi, 2011). The lack of "a minimum nutritionally adequate diet plus essential non-food requirements… not affordable" is the most obvious manifestation of poverty (Townsend 1993).

2.       How did the current forms of man-made poverty emerge in the Third World?

Poverty was created in the Third World by colonialism and a global system of stratification that emerged with European industrialization. To dominate the world, Europe created an international economy that fostered underdevelopment. European development was based on exploitation of people in its colonies. The entire planet was pushed into a common culture of capitalism that divided the world into developed and underdeveloped sector through genocide, slavery, destruction of cultures, and disruption of ecological systems (Blackwell et al., 2003).

3.       Is Goal 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere an achievable goal?

It is highly unlikely due to widespread ignorance about the principles and practices of sustainable development amongst the educated people including the policy-makers and the non-poor people.

4.       What is ignorance of sustainability principles?

Ignorance is a state of mind devoid of awareness regarding sustainability realism of self, society and natural or ecological systems. It could also be described as the lack of farsightedness in individual or a group of people. The ignorant people do not realize that an individual cannot survive alone without the co-existence of other people in the society, and a society cannot subsist without the harmonious co-existence of the endowments of nature.

5.       How is such ignorance manifest in the society?

Ignorance becomes evident in terms of ecologically over-production through over-exploiting natural resource-base for over-consumption of food and non-food commodities. Consumerism driven by profit monger people creates artificial demand for goods and foods that are neither essential nor equitable to the social demands. Such irresponsible consumption and production bring permanent hazard and insecurity to individual, ecosystem, environment and economy of a nation. It is a vicious cycle that ultimately creates an immoral society which exploits nature for the moment’s gain.

Baul Guru Lalon Fakir reveals that the ignorant people are those who are not aware of their own selves and duties on earth. They never ponder on the purpose of their existence, where have they come from, and where they heading towards.

A sab dekhi kanar haat bazaar – Lalon Fakir

(I see all this as the market place of ignorant people).

The ignorant people tend to do wrong and be loser in the end. That is why Lalon cries:

Ki korite eshe vobe ki karmo sobe korilo

Lalon bole sokol amar jogger ghee kuttai khelo.

(Why do people do otherwise instead of what they are supposed to do? Lalon says that all my sacred ghee is eaten by the dogs).

6.       What is ecologically over-production?

It is production through exploiting finite renewable resources such as soil nutrients, fresh water and biodiversity beyond their carrying or regenerative capacity (Kanninen, 2013).

7.       What drives people for over-production?

To make excessive money, and the inability to foresee the predicament of their own deeds.

8.       What drives people to make excessive money?

Ignorance of the wisdom: "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” - Bible. The ignorance about, how much is enough in one’s is a major driver of excessive money-mindedness.

9.       What is over-consumption?

Unnecessary or excess consumption that is harmful for human health, ecological health, and add no extra-satisfaction after meeting the basic human needs (Tashi, 2011). The consumption that affects the balance of other essential components of nature could be termed as over-consumption.

10.     What is the socio-economic impact of over-consumption?

Overconsumption inadvertently creates a strain on others reducing them into poverty (Skolimowski,1993). Overconsumption creates the affluenza situation in a society. The theory of affluenza connotes that overconsumption by the affluent class in the society widens the income gap between social classes which ultimately creates the social imbalance and culture of intolerance. The rich becomes richer and consumes higher than ever and the marginal communities become poorer and social harmony gets affected.

11.     How can the UN remove the unsustainable practices of over-production and over-consumption?

By educating the ignorant educated and rich people to remove the ignorance of their self-sustainability in terms of good health, happiness and longevity; and the sustainability of finite renewable natural resources. Besides, emphasis on value driven education can be an effective tool to develop generations on the principles of harmonious co-existence, responsible consumption as the components of sustainability.

12,     What is the example of popular over-consumption of a food item that can lead to cause poverty and ill-health, and ecological unsustainability?

Excessive Meat Eating. Clearly the increasing production and consumption of meat are at the root of poverty and unsustainable human and environmental Health (Raphael and Maronova, 2015). Besides, countries such as Bangladesh, in recent years, have been introduced western types of junk foods based on meat and other processed food items through global brands like Mcdonalds, KFC and Subway etc.

13.     How does it happen?

When people get richer, they tend to eat more meat. This partly explains why the world is hurtling away from sustainability. The outer shiny side of western development has influenced the developing countries to consider such junk and processed foods as symbol of modernity and solvency.

14.     Where did the culture of excessive consumption originate and what are the impacts?

Western culture, which is leading to a global culture of excess and is emerging as the biggest threat to the planet. Excess consumption can affect the environment and, in the long run, limit economic activity. Higher levels of consumption require larger inputs of energy for extraction and exploitation of natural resources, and also generate a high volume of waste products (Taylor, 2014).

15.     Why excessive meat production and consumption is devastating?

Increasing meat production and consumption in rich countries cost sustainability in numerous ways:

- World supply of meat is also growing globally at close to twice the rate of population growth (Raphaely and Marinova, 2015)

- Globalization creates superfluous demand for increased meat consumption in places like Bangladesh where flexitarian[4] traditional diets have prevailed for centuries.

- Due to ever-increasing supply of meat, the planet’s boundaries are being pushed to the limit by depleting or degrading of resources

- Becoming challenges for human health and morality, biodiversity loss and serious concern about climate change

- While the world’s population grew twofold from 3 to 6 billion between 1961 and 2011, the supply of meat increased fourfold – from 81 to 320 million of tons, and the number of animals slaughtered each year for human consumption during this period grew from 7 to 62.5 billion (calculated from FAOSTAT, 2014).

- A further doubling of meat production is projected for the period 2000-2050 (Steinfeld et al., 2006) during which population is projected to increase by 50% (calculated from UNDESA, 2013)

- If everybody of the world consume as much meat as the average New Zealanders, Australians or Americans do, at least four additional planets are required not only to provide the necessary resources but also to absorb the resulting waste (Environmental Careers Organisation, 2004)

- Currently “the livestock sector represents the world’s single largest human use of land and largest source of water pollutants” (Jackson, 2009).

- Hoekstra (2013) reveals that livestock puts a large claim on the Earth’s natural resources that accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land and 30 per cent of the land surface of the planet

- With respect to water use, Hoekstra (2013) points out: “the global footprint of animal production amounts to 2,422 billion m3/yr. One-third of this total is related to beef cattle, another 19 per cent to dairy cattle.”

- Estimates of livestock’s contribution to greenhouse gases (GHG) range between 20 (Eshel et al., 2014) and 51 (Goodland and Anhang, 2009) per cent of the global total.

- Farming of livestock is inefficient in relation to calorie conversion – it takes 38 calories of feed to produce 1 calorie of beef (Eshel et al., 2014); requires an average of 25 kcal of fossil energy to produce 1 kcal of animal protein which is 10 times greater than the fossil energy required per kcal of plant protein (Hoekstra, 2013)

- The Australian study of Doran-Browne et al. (2015) shows that per unit of nutrient density (covering protein, fibre, vitamins A, C and E, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium) and per protein equivalent untrimmed beef produces respectively 79 and 54 times more GHG compared to flour.

- From an economic point of view, in 2015 livestock accounts for 40 per cent of the global value of agricultural production, being more than 50 per cent in the industrialized countries (FAO, 2015)

- However, the environmental impacts of the pollution created by livestock, deforestation and biodiversity loss due to land conversion into pastures or for growing feed are usually unaccounted.

- For example, livestock is the largest source of water pollutants which severely limits the scope for the future productivity of natural systems (Jackson, 2009:274). An example at a local scale is the city of Delmarva (with a population of 4 million), which struggles to absorb the manure generated by the 600 million chickens raised annually. The excess manure washes off into the rivers and streams or gets into the underground water (Singer and Mason, 2006)

16. What is the state of meat consumption in Bangladesh?

According to FAOSTAT (2015), meat consumption in Bangladesh is still the lowest in the world (4.1kg per person per year), but it is unsustainably increasing.

17.     Is meat consumption essential for Bangladeshi people?

Occasional or ceremonial consumption of meat for the Muslims is traditional in Islamic culture.

18.     What about zero consumption?

It is unlikely to happen. But if it does happen to happen, it would be highly sustainability friendly and an anti-poverty phenomenon.

19.     How can we address poverty in Bangladesh through achieving the Goal 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere?

By sustainable accomplishment of a balance material contentment and spiritual happiness in living our daily lives.

20.     How many forms of poverty exist in Bangladesh?

Material, moral or spiritual, intellectual, political or governance.

21.     Why all these forms of poverty prevail in Bangladesh?

Mainly because ignorance or lack of balanced distribution of economic resources; values education; culturally compatible democracy (Khan, Hossain and Marinova, 2016; Hossain, Khan and Marinova, 2015; Hossain and Marinova, 2012)

22.     Is ending poverty in all its forms possible in Bangladesh and everywhere?

Yes, by means of simple living i.e. simple lifestyle, happiness with less.  Gandhi reveals the philosophy of sustainable living: “Live simply so others can simply live” (Cummings, 1991).

23.     What are the perspectives of simple living?

It is voluntary, consciously chosen, liberating, enabling. Simplicity fosters personal empowerment, creativity, and a sense of ever-present opportunity; simplicity has both beauty and a functional integrity that can alleviate poverty and elevate our lives (Tashi, 2011).

24.     What is the reality of poverty in Bangladesh?

Poverty in Bangladeshi has distinctive sustainability merits: spiritualistic culture i.e. happiness with less, resilience, poverty-like need-base simple living.

25.     Why poverty-like need based simple living lifestyle is sustainability-positive?

Because, ‘The earth satisfies the needs of all, but not the greed of those bent on insane consumption’ (Mahatma Gandhi).

26.     Is Gandhi’s revelation a reality?

Yes. The following texts substantiate Gandhi’s view:

Insane consumption of finite natural resources would require about four Earths  to provide enough farmland and forests to support (Ehrenfeld, 2008). Thus, consumption or consumerism beyond the ecological carrying or regenerative capacity of the physical environment is unforgiving and revengeful through the nature’s renewing mechanisms (such as natural calamities) so that people can retreat (Hossain and Marinova, 2013; Hossain, Khan and Marinova, 2014).

27.     Can the Gandhi’s notion for moderate consumption be implemented globally?

Not at the moment because the current transgressing or over-consuming nations suffer from the ignorance of spiritual integrity.

28.     What is spiritual integrity?

Strong belief in regenerative family system, contentment with meeting basic needs, simple lifestyle, attachment to nature and resilience.

29.     What is the future of our future?

It has to be sustainability positive. Nature is restricting over-consumption by inflicting dietary illness and infertility compelling the ignorant people to understand the ethic of realizing the limits to growth; meeting our needs without undermining the natural systems; and creating an ecologically sensitive economy (Dietz and O’Neil, 2013).

30.     What is the sustainable way of handling poverty in Bangladesh?

By forming sustainable development committee in every Mahalla (Ward) of Bangladesh and empowering the Mahalla SDG Committees to pursue needful initiatives for poverty management within a Mahalla.

31.     Why the SDG committee is able to do that?

Because of the fact that the committee members are local. They do know the background of every poor people’s cause of poverty and possible way out to    address the poverty of the affected individuals.

32.     What should be the methodology for this?

- To identify the poor families

- To prepare 2 yearly action plan to be executed by individual member or/and sub-committee

- To prepare poverty alleviation financial management plan

- To prepare food and work security plan

33.     What can Bangladesh government do for achieving the Goal 1?

Government can start with capacity building education and training programs to implement some Model Pilot Projects (MPPs) in topographically different areas for demonstration and applied research. The local SDG Committees will be part of the MPPs.

The Prime Minister’s office can initiate the SDGs implementation processes at the grassroots level following the guidelines designed by the research team as stated in ‘On Achieving Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs (Part – 1; link (http://newsfrombangladesh.net/new/editorial/50865-on-achieving-sustainable-development-goals-sdgs-in-bangladesh-part-1) dated June 5, 2017).

In addition, the Prime Minister’s office can initiate the establishment of Regional SDGs Institutes with the following missions:

· To provide training to public servants and communities on SDG principles, sustainable living, social participation in development initiatives, and responsible citizenship.

· To research social development and sustainability.

· To provide consultancy support to model/pilot projects of SD.

· To achieve economic ‘self-reliance’ in terms of livelihood sustainability of the village community with contentment, wellbeing and happiness

· To support ecological agriculture for healthy ecosystems

· To promote moral values and traditional culture, renewable energy, sustainable tourism, climate change mitigation, optimum use of renewable resources and ecological footprint in accordance with carrying and re-generation capacity

· To organize joint seminars, international conferences, publications

· Exchange regional research findings to provide policy support to the government.

· Fund research and pilot projects through UN or other types of national and International partnership programs (SDG-17) which will provide the institute a global recognition in SDG research.

(To be continued).


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[1] Many of the world’s major fisheries are overfished and they are on the verge of collapse (Chasek et al., 2017)

[2] The Green Revolution created an ecological breakdown in nature through major changes in ecosystems and agrarian structures together with a breakdown of society with local labour replaced by capital- and chemical-intensive solutions, creating debt for farmers. The Green Revolution technologies generated social and cultural setback, including widening of the economic gap between the rich and the poor farmers as well as politico-cultural crises due to the erosion of moral values (Shiva 1993, 2016; Rogers et al. 2008). Most importantly, its technologies created demand for electricity beyond what a poor country could supply.

[3] Large quantities of plastic and other debris can be found in the most remote parts of the world’s oceans. Plastic persists almost indefinitely in the environment and has a significant impact on marine and coastal biodiversity. A study published in 2016 reported that, if present rates continue, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish (by weight).Chasek et al., 2017

[4] Drawing on the spiritual messages from the Baul philosophers, it makes the case that preserving traditional flexitarianism, defined here as meat in the absence of any other food options or rare ceremonial meat consumption, is essential for the health of the planet and its inhabitants (Hossain, 2015)

Amzad Hossain, Perth Western Australia

Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



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